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British Humanists take to the Bunkers
The following Press Release provides further information on the programme for William Lane Craig's UK tour in October 2011.
Issued by the Reasonable Faith Tour 2011
For Immediate Release
2nd August 2011
British Humanists take to the Bunkers
Polly Toynbee pulls out of debate after tickets sold
Dawkins resorts to abuse
Grayling refuses to debate morality
Thousands download Grayling's forgotten debate
The President of the British Humanist Association has pulled out of debating renowned Christian philosopher William Lane Craig.Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and prominent critic of religion, readily agreed in April to debate Craig on the Existence of God but withdrew her involvement last week saying “I hadn't realised the nature of Mr Lane Craig's debating style, and having now looked at his previous performances, this is not my kind of forum”.
The event, hosted by Premier Christian Radio and due to take place at London's Westminster Central Hall in October, has already been advertised and hundreds of pounds of ticket sales banked. Toynbee apologised for the “inconvenience”. Organisers will be contacting ticket holders, but are hoping to find an alternative leading atheist voice for the debate [see note below], who is willing to dispute the strong rational grounds for Christian theism that Professor Craig is renowned for defending.
William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, California. He has debated leading atheists the world over including Anthony Flew, Lewis Wolpert, Christopher Hitchens, and most recently Sam Harris, who described him as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.” Following the debate with Hitchens, an atheist website concluded that Craig had “spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.”
Craig says of his debates, “These are academic forums, where one concentrates on the arguments and counter arguments, the truth of the premises in those arguments and objections to them, and not on personality or ad hominem attacks.”
Richard Dawkins recently described Craig as a “deeply unimpressive … ponderous buffoon”, who uses logic for “bamboozling his faith-head audience.” Yet he still has not responded to the actual content of the arguments presented by Craig. Dawkins' refusal to debate one-to-one with Craig was recently described as "apt to be interpreted as cowardice" by Dr Daniel Came, a lecturer in Philosophy at Oxford University. Dr Came, who is himself an atheist, called it "a glaring omission" on Dawkins' CV.
Meanwhile, A.C. Grayling, who this year published a humanist ‘bible’ called The Good Book has refused to debate with Craig on the foundations of atheist morality. With secular Britain beset by moral difficulties, not least among politicians, police and the press, this seems to be a neglect of his moral and intellectual duty. Grayling stated that he would rather debate “the existence of fairies and water-nymphs”.
Bolstering his own refusal to debate, Richard Dawkins posted this statement by A.C. Grayling on his website: “Craig claims to have debated me before - that is not correct, unless a brief and rather pointless exchange of emails counts as such.” Why should Craig claim to have debated Grayling, if it was not true?
This embarrassing lapse of memory on Grayling’s part has been exposed by Premier Radio who on 3rd July broadcast a recording of the entire Grayling vs. Craig debate on the Problem of Evil from 2005 and placed it on their website. Within the next 10 days, 10,000 people had downloaded it. It is now available on YouTube.
The Chairman that evening, Roger Preece, remembers it well. “The Debate was excellent. Craig and Grayling spoke to a packed house of 4-500 students at the Oxford Union. I enjoyed chairing the debate and it was a memorable and robust exchange, as the audio tapes confirm.”
Grayling has since commented “I was wrong about debating Lane Craig – but Lane Craig is wrong about everything else in the universe, so I guess I don't do too badly in the deal.”
Dr Peter May, Director of the Craig Tour, said, “If Craig is ‘wrong about everything else in the universe’ and his arguments for the existence of God are so easy to refute, it is hard to see why the leading atheist voices in the country are running shy of having a debate with him. Rather than hurling ‘ad hominem’ attacks on Craig from their bunkers, it would be good to see these figures come forward to rationally defend the atheism they publicly espouse. At the moment it's looking like a rout.”
While Toynbee is President of the British Humanist Association, Dawkins and Grayling are both Vice-Presidents. The BHA describes one of its core values as "engaging in debate rationally, intelligently and with attention to evidence". [View the BHA core values here.]
Debates have been confirmed in Manchester and Birmingham universities, where Craig will engage with Oxford academics, Prof. Peter Atkins (science) and Prof. Peter Millican (philosophy). An open invitation has been sent to Richard Dawkins to change his mind and debate with Craig in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre on October 25th. If Dawkins refuses to take part, Craig will lecture on the weakness of Dawkins’ arguments in his book, The God Delusion. A panel of Oxford scholars will respond to his talk, before members of the audience are invited to ask questions from the floor.
The Reasonable Faith Tour will visit London, Birmingham, Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester, and is supported by The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, Premier Christian Radio and Damaris.
For further details about William Lane Craig, his debates, his writings and his UK tour, visit www.bethinking.org/craig.
For Previous Press Releases on Richard Dawkins & A.C. Grayling refusals and the full text of Dr Came's letter to Richard Dawkins, which raises the issue of cowardice: http://www.bethinking.org/the-reasonable-faith-tour-2011/further-resources.htm
N.B. Stephen Law, atheist lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, London and Editor of THINK, the magazine of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, has agreed to replace Polly Toynbee for the debate on Mon 17 October at Westminster Central Hall.
© 2011 bethinking.org
The Reasonable Faith Tour was sponsored by the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF), Premier Christian Radio and The Damaris Trust.